Yesterday, I saw this meme – twice – on Sandi Krakowski’s Facebook page:
Words of encouragement for the downhearted. Something we all can use. I went to hit “Like”, but then I stopped and thought about this for a moment.
Are we supposed to go through life without anything ever breaking us? Are we supposed to be perfect?
Or is life supposed to break us open?
How do we get those breakthroughs if nothing inside ever gets broken?
What happens, then, when our circumstances break us?
Today is Thursday, April 30, 2015. Tomorrow, my rent is due. I have, at present, $17 in cash. I have $8.46 in my checking account.
For over two years, I have struggled to find permanent employment since the demise of my job at the acupuncture clinic in Poulsbo. I have sent out countless resumes. I have applied for anything that seemed remotely do-able in this area – from clerk in a gas station to a job bagging groceries. Never, at any time in my life, have I ever had difficulty in finding employment.
Last fall, I applied with an employment agency in Poulsbo. By January, I was getting some temp jobs, albeit sporadically. A one-day assignment here. A same-day (less than eight hours) assignment there. For a while, these were coming in about once every two weeks.
Then, a stroke of fortune: a month-long assignment working the front desk at a local insurance agency. Full-time employment! The assignment ended, but before it did, the agency called about another assignment. This one would require an interview, but I was a shoe-in, right? The insurance agency had given me glowing reviews.
No, no, and no. A week later, I got another call from the employment agency. This one was for a 12-week assignment. They wanted to see resumes first, then interview candidates. I got the interview, but not the assignment. Yet I know that I interviewed well.
There has been nothing since. No calls from the employment agency. Not one assignment for the entire month of April.
I look on Craigslist daily. Gravel truck driver, anyone? Bikini barista? Line cook in a restaurant? Unfortunately, these are not skills or experience that I possess. In the last week and a half, I have sent out two unsolicited resumes.
I wait for the phone to ring. You could hear a pin drop in here.
And I wonder, what is wrong with me? Why does this situation refuse to budge? What am I not doing? When I moved up here in 2012, I manifested a job and an apartment instantaneously. Effortlessly. Now?
What needs to break in me for me to get the breakthrough? I am on my knees.
In December 1999, I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I found an apartment in an area called the Four Hills. In Four Hills proper, there were some extremely nice homes that backed up onto open space. The people who lived here had the “good” jobs in Albuquerque – working for Sandia Labs and Kirtland AFB. The Four Hills is adjacent to the intersection of Central Avenue and Tramway. Central Avenue is the old Route 66 and its eastern end has seen better days. Homelessness, drug traffic, prostitution, poverty – East Central is a world apart from the Four Hills.
During my first days in Albuquerque, I signed on with a temp agency and immediately found work. I worked steadily and finally landed a “good” job – this one working in the education department of a large hospital. I did all this while living in my cheap and cheerful apartment that overlooked both the well off and the not-so-well-off.
The complex where I lived had a laundry room, but it was often less time-consuming to take my laundry to a laundromat in a nearby shopping center on weekend mornings. Here, while my laundry cycled, I would watch people coming and going. There were Hispanic families with children running around. There were quiet men in cowboy hats and their taciturn wives, driving mud-splashed pickup trucks all the way from the East Mountains. There were long-distance truck drivers stopping in to do a little wash along the way. There were people walking home to nearby apartments with their groceries still in the carts.
One morning after doing laundry, my husband and I were going to the parking lot to drive home. For some reason, we had two cars that day. My husband got in his car while I loaded laundry into mine. A woman who had been in the laundromat approached me as I was getting into my car. She had a small basket of freshly washed clothes in her arms. Would I give her a ride? She didn’t live far, only about a half-mile away. I looked at her, and I could not say no. There but for the grace of God, go I.
My husband was already in his car. I could see him shaking his head no. But somehow, I knew I was protected. The woman and I drove off, my husband following closely behind. I looked at him in the rear-view mirror. He was furious.
As we drove, the woman told me that she had had a normal life until some medical problem left her unable to work. In a few minutes, we got to where she lived. It was an older motel on Central that had rooms with kitchenettes that could be rented by the month. The woman got out, took her clothes, and thanked me. I never saw her again.
There were many such broke and broken people living near Central and Tramway. A freeway exit for I-40 was nearby and there were lots of motels in the area. Some were newer, extended-stay kinds of places. There was an Econolodge and a Days Inn. There was a once lovely, now faded, classic 1940s-era motor court where prostitutes took their johns. There were two big grocery stores on opposite corners here: a Smith’s and a Raleys.
Often when I went to the store, panhandlers in the parking lot would approach me. My social-worker sister can repel people like this the way rain bounces off hard concrete. But the ground of my heart is softer, and I can never say no. One day, I was inside Smith’s, and a young man approached me. Could I give him $5 to help buy his groceries? He held a hand basket containing a loaf of cheap white bread and a jug of milk. He was new in town, he said, staying nearby. He had just started working, and would get paid in a week …
Yeah, sure. There but for the grace of God, go I. What if it was me in that situation? And now, 15 years later, it is.
What will break open in me when homelessness comes? The Aramaic scholar Dale Allen Hoffman says that it’s okay to let go because there is nowhere to fall, except back onto God. And it may take homelessness happening for me to finally let go, to finally break through that desire for acceptability, my need to look “normal”, my scheming to Make Things Work Out. I have always been stubborn.
And who knows what the breakthrough will be. Will the wise crone in me be birthed? In homelessness will I finally find a home in God? Will I finally allow myself to become that completely open channel of divinity? Who can say? The only way out is through. See you on the other side.